‘Clueless’: THR’s 1995 Review

On July 19, 1995, Paramount unveiled the high school comedy in theaters.

On July 19, 1995, Paramount unveiled the high school comedy Clueless in theaters, where it would go on to gross $56 million stateside. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:

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The Bottom Line

A hilarious “clued-in” comedy about cellular-phone-packing Beverly Hills high schoolers.

A hilarious “clued-in” comedy about cellular-phone-packing Beverly Hills high schoolers, Amy Heckerling’s Clueless sports a terrific cast, sparkling dialogue loaded with slang (example: a virgin is “hymenally challenged”) and a bitchin’ soundtrack of pop tunes. OK, it’s also plotless and borderline brainless, but that won’t stop the Paramount release from cashing in substantially with the teenage and young adult crowd.

Alicia Silverstone (The Crush) plays rich, spoiled, sweet-natured Cher, our guide into a world where self-assured but likable brats try to make over those with less-refined tastes, while struggling down the always-rocky road to maturity. A “Betty” who is less interested in finding a “Baldwin” for herself than with engaging in charitable “projects” involving those around her, Cher is the best-dressed, most popular girl at Beverly Hills High School.

And she works at it, starting with her cavernous closet full of clothes and the computer program that helps her to pick just the right outfit. Critical but not obnoxious about the different cliques at school, Cher hangs mainly with longtime friend Dionne (Stacey Dash). When a frumpy new girl (Brittany Murphy) arrives, the duo leaps into action with glee.

Along with glamorizing the newcomer and trying to hook her up with the suave Elton (Jeremy Sisto), Cher and Dionne successfully arrange a romance between two lovelorn teachers (Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan) that proves beneficial to the entire student body. Tension at home comes in the form of Cher’s attractive “ex-stepbrother” Josh (Paul Rudd), a college freshman who has graduated to reading Nietzsche by the pool and watching the evening news but also enjoys baiting Cher.

When her protege begins to eclipse her popularity, and the lack of a boyfriend spurs Cher to try to seduce a well-dressed dreamboat (Justin Walker), the confused virgin loses her confidence. The resolution is a crowd-pleaser but predictable. The fun is getting there.

With her wondrous good looks and boundless energy, Silverstone breezes through the film with a confident, star-making performance. Among the many fine supporting players, Rudd is a standout, while Murphy handles her character’s transformation with gusto. Several of the biggest laughs come from Cher’s cranky father (Dan Hedaya), a top-drawer litigator whose deadpan responses to his daughter’s entreaties are hilarious reality checks.

Tolerant and optimistic, a little wicked but not too subversive, Heckerling’s film is a welcome change of pace for the filmmaker after Look Who’s Talking and its first sequel. A return to the controlled chaos of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless is no “Monet” (translation: looks fine from a distance, but really a mess up close). It is put together well and rarely pauses long enough for one to dwell on its minor shortcomings.

Special kudos to costumer Mona May for the vast array of crazy get-ups and cool threads. Shot entirely on locations in and around Beverly Hills, the film is majorly eye-catching courtesy of Bill Pope’s excellent cinematography. — David Hunter, originally published July 17, 1995.